Over the last few months, the retail sector has grown in unprecedented ways. In response to COVID19 and changing lifestyle habits among consumers, many retail brands are recording a dramatic increase in online revenue.
Retail sales in the 3rd quarter of 2020 showed an estimated revenue of almost $1.5 trillion USD in the US alone. That’s a 12 percent increase from the 2nd quarter, and a 36 percent increase compared to the 3rd quarter of 2019. Interestingly, online retail sales from eCommerce platforms accounted for 14.3%, or about $200 billion USD, of the total retail sales.
The pandemic has also forced some retailers to completely close up shop and file for bankruptcy. And it’s not just small retailers. Victims include iconic brick and mortar retail names like Neiman Marcus, JC Penney, Hertz, GNC, and Stein Mart that have been around for decades and have multi-generational customers.
Many of the successful merchants have kept up with the times and adapted to new emerging trends. This brings us to the all-important question: What new trends are likely to remain essential and which trends will fizzle out when things return to normal?
6 Trends Will Be Here to Stay Through 2021 and Beyond
1 | Convenience Shopping
In response to consumers’ growing concerns about personal safety while shopping, many retailers are tweaking or completely rethinking their last-mile delivery options using technologies such as buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS), contactless shopping, curbside and drive-through pickups, and in-trunk delivery.
Options like BOPIS and trunk delivery allows customers to get their items faster - often same-day - instead of waiting on slow shipping. Contactless shopping on the other hand, allows customers to continue shopping in-person while minimizing the risk of exposure to COVID19.
Retail brands offering BOPIS are seeing as much as 4x as many customers choosing it over last year.
Shopping options like these that provide
improved convenience and safety are unlikely to go away anytime soon. In fact, Retail brands offering BOPIS features are seeing an increasing number of buyers choose that option when shopping online - as much as 4x as much.
The truth is, once someone has experienced how easy it is to have others do their shopping for them, they’re unlikely to want to spend the time, energy, and stress to do it themselves. It’s so much easier to do your shopping in a matter of clicks, getting recommendations from past purchases, than spending an hour toting screaming kids around Walmart.
2 | Increased Safety Precautions for all In-Store Shoppers
In an effort to keep their employees and customers safe, retail brands are doing everything possible to keep their stores sanitized. Some of the many safety procedures retailers have adopted include:
- Mandating the proper use of face masks inside the store
- Limiting the number of people in the store at every given period
- Having designated shopping periods for the vulnerable senior citizens
- Placing hand sanitizers and washing bowls/sinks outside the store
- Routinely wiping down and disinfecting shopping carts and trolleys
- Installing plexiglass barriers between the cashiers and buyers
Many stores will probably keep doing this only as long as there’s a risk of airborne or surface contact infection within the store.
3 | Fast Fulfillment and Free Shipping
People want to buy their stuff now and get it now. But rather than going to the store to get it themselves, most will settle for the second-best thing – 24-48 hour shipping. In fact, 90% of shoppers in a recent survey said they would likely abandon their cart if shipping takes longer than 48 hours.
Retailers are learning if they want to survive, they have to speed up shipping. Apple, for instance, has shifted to shipping out devices from its stores instead of the regular distribution centers. This means that buyers can expect to receive their orders within 24 hours, instead of waiting a week or more.
Many retail brands are adopting the send-from-store model to speed up the delivery process and get people’s orders in their hands in the shortest time possible.
Trends that speed up the delay between the time of purchase and delivery are likely going to continue even after the pandemic is over.
4 | Increased Integration of AR, AI, ML, & Automation Tech
Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and augmented reality tech are driving the new seamless supply chains guaranteed to boost retail growth.
Retailers that use a combination of these technologies improve their logistics, inventory management, and order fulfillment processes tremendously. With these technologies in place, products are better tracked, inventories are better managed, and orders are fulfilled faster and more accurately.
A machine learning-driven augmented reality platform like Ox helps merchants achieve all these and more by streamlining their processes, making them efficient, and reducing cost in the process.
5 | Old, Abandoned Malls Turned Distribution Centers
Same-day and next-day deliveries are a luxury that customers have come to expect. Successful retail brands are finding last-mile solutions by bringing distribution centers even closer to shoppers.
One way retailers like Amazon are meeting the demand, is by buying up old, bankrupt mall properties to turn them into their distribution centers. These abandoned malls are great because they already have the infrastructure in place as a fraction of the typical cost. The availability and location of these potential micro fulfillment centers likely means big retailers will have distribution centers located in all cities and even boroughs.
Trends to Watch Post-COVID19
1 | Retailer Focus on Seamless Customer Retention Strategies
Retailers such as Amazon, Walmart, Target, and Home Depot have spent a small fortune on improving their supply chain efficiency. This has helped improve customer relations and, subsequently, bolstered these retail brands’ bottom line.
However, given the cost of implementing these strategies, the manpower, and the deployment of highly efficient technologies, these brands are going to be focused on getting their customers to spend more with them.
This likely means more customer retention strategies such as low-cost, free or super-fast shipping, easy last-mile delivery options, BOPIS implementation, and easy return policies brought on by the use of buy online return in-store (BORIS) technologies.
2 | Potential Shift Back from Online Shopping to In-Store
Some of the recent gains that eCommerce brands are enjoying, come from people who have never shopped online. As more companies adapt and catch up, the focus in attracting these new online shoppers will only increase.
However, in-store purchases provide a sense of normalcy - something people crave more and more every day. In fact, shoppers were willing to wait in line for hours just to do their shopping the old way.
Of course, shopping habits may have changed, but offline malls and stores provide a sense of community and belonging that the online shopping experience doesn’t.
3 | A Return to Normal Retail Store Hours
Most retail stores are only open for a limited number of hours due to manpower shortage and other challenges. However, now that some retail brands have figured out how to keep their doors open and stay safe, we will may see more stores open for longer post-COVID19 - or we may not, even with the growing volume of online purchases.
Ultimately, these are speculations based on data projections and human behaviors. What remains constant is the need for every retail brand to make it easier for shoppers to buy from them. This means investing in tech that can help create a seamless shopping experience for the buyer. Implementing a BOPIS strategy is easy and has the biggest return on investment.
BOPIS integration into current retail systems is pretty straightforward, easy-to-use, increases efficiency, saves costs and man-hours, and boosts your revenue.
Transform your entire supply chain by implementing BOPIS optimization features with Ox. We’ll take care of everything from sales and inventory management, to order fulfillment and after-sales delivery. As an AI-powered augmented reality platform, Ox’s machine learning aptitudes make your retail process even more intuitive with frequent usage. If you’re thinking of making your retail operations more efficient, Ox’s seamless retail automation is what you need.